The month of May gathers her flowers and showers and makes her way out of our hills. June glides in softly, bringing graduation, roses, and blushing brides.
Honeysuckle is blooming fragrantly on the banks of Clay, as it always does at graduation time. Honeysuckle and graduation are intertwined in my memory until the faintest whiff of honeysuckle-laden air invokes the very atmosphere of the old high school. It brings back the hot caps and gowns, and the final march through the high school gymnasium. The memories are bittersweet, as some of our fellow graduates we never saw again.
High school graduation is such a definite milestone in one’s life, and it is possibly the most abrupt thrust into adulthood we ever experience. Whether you go on to college, into the Armed Forces, or into marriage or the working force, things are never the same again. Some of the students that I graduated with had gone to school together for twelve years. No matter how many promises we made to keep up the old friendships, it just doesn’t work that way. I still love Peggy Ann, but I have not seen her for years.
Most of them have gone on to greener pastures, having moved to a new area and put down roots. Some have been called to their eternal home and are waiting there for us. Then there are some, like me, who have stayed in the hills here and have spent their lifetime seeing their families grow, and are leaving a heritage behind. Most of the students whom I graduated with, I have never seen again.
We watched our six children graduate from Clay County High School, and each one brought a pang to the heart, and a prayer that God will go with them and protect them as they venture into life. When our last one, Crystal, walked across the stage and received her diploma, the old familiar lump rose up in my throat and brought helpless tears to my eyes. I wanted to cry out, “No, she’s not old enough to be doing this—just last week I held her in my arms an brushed the baby curls out of her eyes. She went one year to Glenville State College, and then got married.
Crystal is a born teacher, however. She home schooled her three daughters (Mylie is still home schooled) and they have made top grades. In fact, her oldest daughter, Alyssa, just graduated from Wingate School of Pharmacy in North Carolina and now is a Doctor of Pharmacy. Brianna went to Lee University last year and majored in music, and is an accomplished singer and actress. Now she attends Tri-State Community College, and is taking college transfer classes. She is president of Student Government, and plans to work with children. We don’t know what is in store for Mylie, but she will succeed at it!
Our last grandson, Jacob, (Matthew’s son) graduated from Clay County High School this year. Twenty-two grandchildren have received their high school diplomas, most of them from Clay High, and two great-granddaughters have graduated. As time goes on, there will be many, many more. And life goes on here in Summer’s Fork . . .
Dawn comes to the hills this morning, and the countryside is filled with birdsong; a robust melody of cheerful music filled with the joy of living. The sun is peeping up over Pilot Knob, highlighting a few lingering clouds before sweeping the sky clean. Wispy fog clings to the foothills, while the brightening day reveals trees in full leaf.
I miss the whippoorwills that once sang from hill to hill. Son Andy built a new house at the foot of Pilot Knob, and says that several whippoorwills make their clear call there every night. I am hoping fervently that they are making a comeback. Daddy always said that when they call in the spring, it is time for the lady of the house to get up and build the fires in the morning. I guess that up until then, the husband built the fires during the cold months. I suppose that was when they burned wood or coal.
Alone on the porch with a cup of tea, I rest in the solitude of the morning and reflect how content that I am. I think of my classmates who have traveled (and stayed) to other states and even other countries. Except for a couple of years when Criss and I lived in Jackson and Kanawha County, this has been my home since I was one year old. It’s the same farm that my great-grandfather owned, and now there are seven generations who have their roots here.
I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Happiness is transitional, contingent upon outward circumstances that waxes and wanes as they change. But true contentment is constant; it comes from deep within and is a gift from God. If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t be any more content. Here in the hills, with spring softening the land and sprinkling blossoms from the forest floor to the treetops, is where I want to be. Tucked in my niche in the mountains, with my children nearby and grandchildren and great-grandchildren growing up around me (and now two great greats), I am content!
Springtime chores are upon us, and after much rain, there is a rush to clean, plant and refurbish. The garden is finally dry enough to plant the corn and bean seed, and also to make a cucumber patch. Last year’s garden was pretty much of a disaster. It was so rainy that our cucumbers mostly drowned, the half-runner green beans were pitiful and our cabbage plants succumbed to the wet ground. We are hoping that this year will be more successful.
Raising a garden is something that has been handed down in our family from generation to generation, and it’s hard to realize that someday we might not be able to do it. With all the grandkids and great-grandkids that we have, surely someone will take it up. And so, the years will go on . . .
Graduation is here, you’ve really come far,
Rejoice and be happy, accept who you are,
Address every day with purpose and aim,
Decide what you want, make living your game.
Understand and discover, always be true.
The world is your canvas, inviting and new.
Opportunity awaits you, just walk through the door,
New moments each day are yours to explore.
And—never forget to walk with God.